Raising Monty Python’s Graham Chapman from the Dead…in 3-D
Left Eye, Right Eye, Don’t They Both Go Into the Same Head?
The production was ambitious on several levels, the most obvious being that none of the participants has any real 3-D experience. Some scenes started with cell animation or line-drawn art. There was stop-motion, full CG, even oil painting on glass. Name a technique, it was used. Crank out the scenes, convert them to 3-D, sew them into a final film. This had never been done before on such a scale.
According to Justin, EPIX loved the idea of 3-D from the very beginning after reading the script. So did the final set of companies chosen to work on the film. “Every company we chose was excited about the challenge to be involved in making their style work in 3-D. Many were learning 3-D for the first time,” he explained. “We setup training days where we brought in the various compositors and went through all the things they’d need to do. We spent three months researching all the 3-D and then taught all the companies what they needed to do.”
He went on to say, “Now, with the end of this production, there are 14 companies in London that can produce work in 3-D. With these great 3-D production tools in After Effects, stereoscopic 3-D is now accessible for them to do. It’s not just in the hands of the big production houses. That was a truly remarkable outcome of this production.”
Justin didn’t force the 3-D onto anyone, trying to make them freak out about the unknown 3-D piece while they were focusing on their original production efforts. On a workflow level, 3-D made things take much longer. The film would have been done a lot quicker if it had just been done in 2D. However, according to Justin, once everyone learned how to create the stereo effect in their specific style, it was quite easy going forward. “It also took time to get the hang of how much we wanted to push the depth,” he explained. “We could move things forward and back, but for some techniques, it would make the animation almost look like cutout. We didn’t want to take away from the narrative or the beauty of the animation by making the 3-D the focus of the film.”
They could get away with much more 3-D on the animation from Superfad, which was done with Softimage, or the Mr. & Mrs: Monkeys sequence, which was done in Maya. Every 3-D effort had a different workflow, which resulted in a different depth for every scene.
Justin’s team created another bible, a deliverable bible. It specified that everything was going to be done 2000 pixels wide and 1080 high. That gave them leeway if later they wanted to come in and fix some of the conversions, soften some things or push some things back further. Each company submitted final dpx sequences of left and right eye that they would render out. Justin then used those to make massive comps in After Effects for each section and then used Dynamic Link to jump between the program and his Premiere editing timeline. According to Justin, “If we wanted to change something, we would just double click through into After Effects and away we’d go.”
Studios sent Justin large numbers of package files with all their layers so he could make sure all their rigs were working. At the beginning his team built its own rig with Adobe’s CS4. Then CS5 came around with built-in stereoscopic, then 5.5, which is when Adobe came on board the project. With 5.5, Justin brought everyone into one stereo workflow. Each studio began using the latest versions of Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium, including Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Flash Professional, and Photoshop Extended. The project literally would not have come together without the “shared” Adobe software pipeline. The standard workflow was critical. It made it easier to help people when they had problems because he could tell them exactly what they needed to do for a fix. With everyone using After Effects for final compositing, it was much easier providing support as well. However, Justin is not bashful when he says, “But God, I wish CS6 was available when we started this project.”